Food habits are more important than the most important obesity risk gene

Sep 11, 2009

The risk of becoming obese is 2.5 times higher for those who have double copies of the best known risk gene for overweight and obesity. However, this is only true if the fat consumption is high. A low fat diet neutralizes the harmful effects of the gene.

“This means that the critical factor is what you eat. At least in the case of the FTO gene, the most important obesity gene identified so far” says Emily Sonestedt, member of Marju Orho-Melanders research group at Lund University Diabetes Centre.

She is the main author of a study that is currently being published in the . Several studies have found that exercise diminishes the effect of the risk gene but this is the first study where the effect of the gene has been studied in relation to food habits. The risk variant of the FTO gene (fat mass and obesity associated) is common in the general population. 17 percent have double copies, meaning they have inherited it from both parents. Another 40 percent have a single copy.

“It is difficult to calculate how much people eat with any certainty, which is one of the reasons why no one has done this before. But we have good data” says Emily Sonestedt.

The information comes from the large Malmö Diet and Cancer study where food habits were carefully documented using, among other things, an extensive questionnaire, a long interview and a food diaries kept by the participants themselves. When the of the carriers of the double risk variant for obesity was analyzed the pattern was clear. The risk of obesity was dramatically increased only in the case of high fat consumption.

“Yes, for those who had a diet where less than 41 percent of the energy consumed came from fat, obesity was not more common, in spite of the inherited risk” says Emily Sonestedt.

The FTO genes acts in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates appetite and satiety, and the risk variant has been connected to an increased , especially in the form of fat.
“It could be that the carriers of the risk gene don’t feel as full from eating fat and therefore consume more and gain weight” says Emily Sonestedt.

The finding that the harmful effects of the gene can be cancelled by changing eating habits could, combined with mapping of the effects of other obesity genes, lead to better and more individualized nutritional counseling for those that want to avoid gaining weight.

“This shows that we are not slaves to our . Even if we are born with an inherited predisposition to obesity, life style is important” says Emily Sonestedt.

More information: The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:
Fat and carbohydrate intake modify the association between genetic variation in the FTO genotype and
www.ajcn.org/cgi/rapidpdf/ajcn.2009.27958v1

Source: Lund University

Explore further: Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Influence of 'obesity gene' can be offset by healthy diet

Mar 03, 2009

Children who carry a gene strongly associated with obesity could offset its effect by eating a low energy density diet, according to new research from UCL (University College London) and the University of Bristol published ...

New insight into the link between genetics and obesity

Nov 08, 2007

Scientists have acquired new insight into how the ‘obesity gene’ triggers weight gain in some individuals. Their findings, reported online today in Science Express, could have implications for the future treatment of obe ...

Study finds dietary fat interacts with genes

Apr 10, 2007

Research published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine examines how calories from fat, carbohydrate, and protein might interact with genes to affect body mass index (BMI), or body weight-for-height, and risk of obesity among ...

Recommended for you

Testosterone testing has increased in recent years

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—There has been a recent increase in the rate of testosterone testing, with more testing seen in men with comorbidities associated with hypogonadism, according to research published online Nov. ...

AMA: Hospital staff should consider impact of CMS rule

Nov 21, 2014

(HealthDay)—Hospital medical staff members need to consider the impact of a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that revised the conditions of participation for hospitals ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.